Ficus plant, commonly known as fig tree of tropical origins, can be grown both indoors and outdoors. It produces dense foliage and is long-lived. It has an interesting history and religious significance. It is also one of the most majestic plants that have been cultivated for centuries.
The history of Ficus goes back to 60 million years ago, and it is believed to be one of the first fruit-producing trees suitable for human consumption. The oldest Ficus presently known is located in Sri Lanka and estimated to have been planted 288 B.C. These plants are not native to North America. Most versatile specimens can be found in Africa, Australia, Asia and the Pacific Islands.
The Ficus plants thrive in hot and humid regions of the world. Because of their natural adaptability, they can grow in various habitats from full sun to dark shade. Well matured specimens can become invasive as they produce vines that may choke the surrounding vegetation, especially small undeveloped trees.
If considering planting outdoors, the plant should be placed in an open area that will allow for the Ficus to spread. It grows rapidly and branches out both vertically and horizontally.
In colder zones, the Ficus thrives in containers and can be attractively displayed on a patio or indoors as a houseplant.
The Ficus grows profusely year round given the right conditions. As an invasive type of plant, it can adapt to almost any situation, but grows the fastest in full sun. The indoor plants typically spread 1-2 feet per year. The outdoor varieties may branch out 4-6 feet per year in each direction and produce fruit.
There is no limit to the growth of the Ficus. Well established plants may reach the height of 50 feet, and as houseplants, they may grow up to 25 feet and are ideal for commercial displays such as banquet halls, mall pathways or hotels with vaulted ceilings.
The Ficus tree produces best results if started from seedlings that can be purchased at any nursery or garden center. In the spring, the small plant should be taken outside and exposed to sun for two hours daily.
The process is known as “hardening off” and allows the Ficus to acclimate itself to the outdoor environment. A slow introduction to full sun will accelerate the growth and prepare the young tree to be planted in the ground soil.
If keeping the Ficus as a household plant, the newly purchased seedlings should be placed in front of a bright window for three days without disturbing it. The Ficus should be then re-planted into a bigger pot after testing the quality of the soil.
It is recommended to add organic material and peat moss for better drainage. All preparation should take place in the spring from March to April when the new plants are most eager to spurt new growth.
1. Select a site with a bright filtered sunlight.
2. Dig a hole that is three times larger than the pot the seedlings came in or choose a container that is three times bigger for household Hibiscus.
3. Mix the removed soil with compost, peat moss, sand and manure.
4. Shredded leaves can be used for organic matter.
5. Place half of the new mix back into the whole.
6. Loosen the roots and plant the Ficus evenly with the surrounding soil.
7. Use the remaining soil mixture to top it off.
8. Install a stake 18 inches (12 inches for containers) into the ground and tie the plant with a soft ribbon.
9. Water generously at the time of initial planting.
10. Fertilize after 30 days, and every two weeks thereafter throughout the growing season.
The Ficus grown as houseplants are much smaller than their outdoor relatives. They often have multiple trunks that are braided for strength. The crown of a household Ficus can grow without limits if it has enough space and receives appropriate amounts of sun exposure daily.
1. Soil – The soil should contain proper ratio of perlite and sand mixed with potting soil, typically, one part of soil to one part of perlite and one part of sand. These proportions will ensure proper drainage and even distribution of fertilizer.
2. Light – Bright filtered sunlight is most beneficial. The container should be occasionally turned around to ensure even growth of the foliage.
3. Water – Household Ficus likes room-temperature water, even in the summer months. Using cold water may shock the plant, and it will respond with yellowing of the leaves. It should be watered every two weeks in the summer and once per month during the winter, spring and fall.
4. Pruning – To tame any excessive growth, the Ficus should be pruned in the spring and before winter without damaging the trunk of the tree.
5. Leaf Drop –This plant prefers the stability of one location and surrounding environment. It will react every time it is moved to another room. It will also drop its leaves due to changes of the season, temperatures in the house, drafts and frequency of watering.
1. Location – Begin the process by placing the Ficus in a pot outdoors for 2-3 weeks. Once it adapts to the environment and begins to sprout new leaves, it can be gently removed from the container and planted in the ground. Bright location is preferred without overabundance of sunlight and wind.
2. Water and Fertilizer – Irrigation should be done on as-needed basis depending on the amount of rain the plant receives. The soil should be dry to the touch before watering again. Fertilizers can be used sparingly as the plant will absorb all the nutrients from the surrounding soil if of good quality. If the plant begins to wilt and drop leaves, it is an indication of lack of moisture.
3. Pruning – Outdoor varieties produce sticky sap that may attract insect colonies. Pruning should be done at the beginning of the season to keep the shape of the Ficus. It is important to remember not to trim more than 25 percent of the growth or the tree may not be able to recover.
4. Pests – Outdoor Ficus is susceptible to scale. It can be easily curbed by using rubbing alcohol and neem oil. The process typically has to be repeated every summer.
In Northern America, the Ficus Benjamina is the most popular variety. It is known as the weeping fig and widely preferred by avid gardeners because of its adaptability and ease of care.
The outdoor versions cannot tolerate re-planting. For that reason, it is important to select the correct spot the first time. It will grow relentlessly in warmer climates and requires very little care once it acclimates itself to the environment. Its dark green and rippled leaves create an astonishing looking canopy that provides shielded spot for shade-loving plants and flowers that can be planted around the base of the trunk.
An established weeping fig only needs minimal care that consists of regular removal of the weeds around the tree. This condition can be remedied by placing gravel around the base. The mulch is not preferred as it may harbor colonies of ants and encourage spider webs which may be detrimental to the health of the tree.
The indoor Ficus sometimes experiences overwatering, especially in commercial areas where several people are in charge of the plant. It may lead to yellowing and dropping of the leaves and eventual root rot. The most noticeable sign is a foul smell from the container where bacterial decomposition of the root ball occurs.
An overwatered plant should be removed from its container and re-planted after allowing the roots to dry for several hours. Mild solution of water and fertilizer can be used to revive the Ficus. It should then be placed in brighter location and not relocated again unless absolutely necessary.
All dead leaves should be removed as they keep falling off, and the necrotic branches should be discarded allowing the Ficus to regain its vitality. In most cases, the plant can be successfully saved by careful monitoring of its habits and addressing any visible signs of compromised health of the tree.